Last week I came to you with a primer on Esper Midrange. I told you that I considered it to be the best deck in the format. I still hold that belief, the best 2 decks in my opinion are Monored and Esper Midrange.
I have played an unhealthy amount of magic this month, trying all sorts of decks, trying to find the ideal one for the big (literally huge, 4 thousand people) Magic Arena Qualifier Weekend. The thing is, no one deck prevails above all in this metagame. Most decks play on a similar power level. By playing a deck like Esper Midrange in such a tournament, you give yourself a decent chance. It is a deck that can go 7-4 in any given field, provided you pilot it correctly. But i need a better result than 7-4. I want to catch the metagame off guard by doing what seems to me the logically correct deck choice. Beating planeswalkers down with beefy dudes and my own aggressive walkers.
Gruul Spellbreaker seems like a forgotten card. I have been thinking about it for some time, ever since a Gruul deck got 2nd place in the Fandom Legends tourney two weeks ago. And that deck did not even play the best planeswalkers available to its colours!
Ari Lax mentioned in his article something that finally woke me up and got me going: “Gruul Spellbreaker is the card people are refusing to play for no reason that they should be winning with instead”. So I finally got a Gruul deck together, theorycrafted it and put it on test in the Magic Arena mythic ladder. After some tweaks, here’s what I ended up with:
Nissa, Who Shakes The World was the first obvious addition. The card just wrecks people. Apart from that, the deck builds itself.
Incubation Druid is inferior to Paradise Druid in an aggresive deck but, I feel like the tournament will be full of Monored opponents and I did not want 6 mana dorks that just die to Goblin Chainwhirler. Albeit I could still be wrong and Paradise Druid might still be the correct choice.
The numbers on Domri, Chandra and Sarkhan is another thing I’m not 100% set on. Domri has been fine but not spectacular but she also serves the theme of the deck, use her one or two times then animate her with Sarkhan. I have also experimented with 3 Chandra and 2 Sarkhan. There’s pros and cons to both options. Sarkhan’s minus ability is kind of meh in a world dominated by Teferi, Time Raveler. But Chandra has not impressed me either. I feel like she is much better in a shell like Monored, where you have way more early drops to take the momentum, make your opponent react to them and just slam her when their resources have been depleted. Anyhow, I have ended up with 2 Chandras and 3 Sarkhans for now.
4 Shock and 4 Lighting Strike to serve as creature killers, planeswalker killers and, of course, reach to finish your opponent!
Concerning the sideboard, you don’t have that may options in the Gruul colours. Though the ones that exist are pretty good.
Legion War Boss and Cindervines serve a big role in beating those pesky Superfriends decks.
Dire Fleet Daredevil is excellent vs Thought Erasure decks, though their numbers have declined the past week.
Lava Coil is another removal for decks like Esper Midrange, Monored, Grixis, Gruul etc.
Thorn Lieutenant is a concession against Monored, because I expect it in big numbers in the tournament. If your opinion differs however, you can cut them for 2 Tibalt.
I’m not 100% set on a s/b plan but i’ll go through a rough guide on what you should do against each matchup, apart from the things mentioned earlier:
vs Superfriends decks:
I like trimming my planeswalkers and going on a more aggressive plan for game 2 and 3, trying to catch them off guard and mitigate their planeswalker hate.
+4 Cindervines +2 Legion War Boss
-2 domri -3 Sarkhan -1 Nissa
There’s a good chance cutting on Shocks and Lightning Strikes is a better plan so don’t follow this blindly, test it! They serve a role in killing the walkers but they can also be pretty bad because against Teferi or Narset you lose cards in the exchange, so killing them with your own walkers is a better exchange, if they do not have planeswalker hate that is.
vs Esper Control:
+4 Cindervines +3 Dire Fleet Daredevil + 2 Legion War Boss
-4 Shock -4 Lightning Strike -1 Incubation Druid
On the draw, if they bring in Thief of Sanity (they shouldn’t) cut 3 Llanowar Elves instead of 3 Shock
Llanowar Elves are bad against their mass removal but I feel they are better than the burn spells. Again, I could be wrong. Maybe you do want them on the play but not on the draw.
vs Esper Midrange:
+3 Dire fleet Daredevil +3 cindervines
– 4 Llanowar Elves -2 incubation Druid
I’m not sold on Cindervines yet. Fundamentally it feels wrong to add Cindervines against a half-creature midrange deck but the Esper Midrange decks are heavier on the spell side these days, especially after sideboarding. You can also try Legion War Boss, Lava Coil as extra removal or just adding the Daredevils and calling it a day.
+4 Lava Coil +2 Thorn Lieutenant
-4 Llanowar elves -2 Incubation Druid
Mana dorks may seems valuable in ramping you into your big threats quicker, but they die way too easily to be kept in in my opinion.
vs Reclamation decks:
+4 Cindervines +2 Legion War Boss
-4 Shock -2 Lightning Strike
You can experiment by adding Thorn Lieutenants and cutting either the remaining Strikes or Incubation Druids. You need to kill the nexus decks fast and though it is doable, it’s not as easy as Monored has it against them.
That’s what i have for you this week. Whether this gets published before or after the MCQW, I am hopeful this deck is the correct choice for the expected metagame so, barring any big metagame shift this is my frontrunner and the deck I want to submit.
Wish me luck!
By Kratos or